You should go to Myanmar. You should really go for three weeks to a month in order to make the most of it.
You should organise your visa well in advance as there is no option to receive a visa on arrival. You should be able to find flights from your home destination but if not you can fly somewhere else in Asia such as Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur and take an AirAsia flight from there which is often the cheapest option.
You should arrive in Yangon what was until a few years ago the capital city (formerly known as Rangoon). You’ll feel a bit like you’ve gone back in time. You should try and take a peek at the house where Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest for her people. You should also definitely go to the ‘Schwedagon Pagoda’.
While you’re travelling throughout the country you should be reading ‘Burmese Days’. Get lost in Orwell’s novel set in the 1920s which tells the tale of British relations with the Burmese during colonial times. Orwell himself who is most famous for his novels ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ spent five years in Burma as a police officer and through his well written humourous at times tale captures the very essence of life at that time and the relationship between the British and the natives through a page turning story of love, friendship and treachery.
You should do the touristy thing. Go to Bagan and spend a day cycling through the temples (other options include being transported by horse and cart). Be impressed by temples that are as amazing as those in Angkok Wat but more authentic given the fact that they are twenty times less crowded.
You should visit Lake Inle too. Pay for a little boat trip on the river and be impressed by the charming houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts that you pass. You should also visit the Inle Lake Nga Phe Kyaung jumping cat monastery for the fun. In the guide book the cats have been given a super reputation as trained cats that jump through hoops but the reality is that they are quite fat and lazy given that each time they jump through they are rewarded with food. Still you should get to catch them doing a little trick.
You should take the train from Yangon to Mandalay. Check out the Shwenandaw Monastery there and take a peek at the monks doing their daily rituals and chants.
You should go to Hsipaw just above Mandalay and go trekking. You can also check out the waterfall there.
You should take a boat trip from Mandalay along the river Irawaddy and take in the breathtaking views along the way.You have the option to stop at a few towns that the boat stops at including the town where Orwell spent a few years serving for the British.
You should continue up north to Bhamo, the last stop on the river from Mandalay (taking a total of two days and two nights to get there non stop). Stay at the ‘Friendship Hotel’ the most charming budget hotel I’ve ever stayed in with its magical all you can eat buffet breakfast and charming staff and take a tour of this charming little village by bicycle.
You shouldn’t be surprised if the transport is slow. Maybe your boat will get stuck in the river for anything from two to twelve hours. Maybe your bus will have to pull by the side of the road because the bus ahead is leaning halfway off the hill. My experiences anyway. You should give yourself plenty of time when going anywhere and appreciate life at a slower pace. Saying that you also shouldn’t be surprised if your transport is insanely overcrowded.
You should eat Burmese food and drink Burmese tea. Sip Burmese whiskey if the occasion allows. A Burmese salad is quite the treat too. You shouldn’t chew betel, the famous leaf of fine made of ingredients including tobacco, pepper and kava. Most men in Myanmar chew betel and that’s the reason for their rotting discouloured teeth. You should watch your feet too as Burmese men have a tendency to spit this out practically anywhere once they’re done.
You should learn a few words of the local language because in the more rural areas not many speak English.
Hello – Min gal a bah
How are you? – K’amyà ne-kaùn-là?
I don’t understand – Nà-mǎleh-ba-bù
So what are you waiting for? Safe travels 🙂
‘The only real prison is fear and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.’ Aung San Suu Kyi